With their lightweight textures and cooling consistencies, water cream moisturisers make the ideal summer skincare switch-up but there are some skin types that are going to want to use one all year round as the experts explain

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Gel cream moisturisers (you may also see them labelled as water creams or  cloud creams are so-called because of their lighter, gel texture and the fact they contain water-based hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. So why would you choose one over a ‘regular’ moisturising cream?

“Unlike traditional heavy creams, gel-cream moisturisers have a non-greasy texture that absorbs quickly into the skin, providing an instant burst of hydration without leaving a residue,” explains skin and aesthetic expert Alice Henshaw and founder of Skincycles. “Their cooling nature makes them ideal for those seeking relief from summer skin complaints like inflammation, irritation and breakouts or for using during summer months when heavy creams might feel uncomfortable, or you want less shine.”

However, if you have very dry skin a water cream may not pack enough of a hydration hit as they are don’t contain heavier and richer occlusive and emollient ingredients that lock moisture in and prevent it from escaping. So to make them work for you, try teaming your gel cream with hydrating serums underneath or even a facial oil on top. Henshaw recommends patting oils on top of a gel cream moisturiser to that it then acts as an occlusive just without the heavier texture.

Who should use a gel cream moisturiser?

Of course, all skin types can use a gel cream moisturiser because they’re so light and refreshing that every skin type will find some benefit to them. However, there are some specific skin concerns or skin types that will get on with them particularly well.

“Gel cream moisturisers are particularly good for acne-prone, oily or inflamed skin,” says celebrity facialist, Ada Ooi and founder of 001 Skincare. “Gel formulas usually contain high water content that hydrates the skin without overloading it. This helps to avoid accumulated sebum combined with pollution and heat which can be a breeding ground for bacteria, inducing more blackheads or acne.” She continues with, “It’s really important to keep skin moisturised and gel moisturisers are excellent for helping re-balance the natural skin’s lipidic and moisture barrier and rebalancing stressed skin.”

So, with all of that in mind here is our pick of the best gel cream moisturisers

Utilising all the benefits of wrinkle-smoothing retinol without any of the potential sensitivity and reactivity thanks to it being combined with moisture-boosting ceramides and skin-strengthening peptides. All housed in a lightweight, non-comedogenic gel moisturiser. The retinol is photostable so can be used not only at night but during the day too, as long as you team it with the best SPF you have.

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The iconic one: Tatcha The Water Cream, £65 

Every member of the GTG team has tried this cream and absolutely loved it. And for good reason. As soon as you start to apply it to the skin it melts into a watery fluid that easily slides over the skin, sinking in as it does so. It contains a blend of Japanese botanical and superfood ingredients to tighten pores and reduce oil levels as well as particles of 23k gold to give the skin a subtle, luminous sheen. It has a light but floral scent and is oil-free and comes with a handy spatula that cleverly slots into the top of the lid making it look like a decorative bow. 

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The multi-tasking one: Beauty Pie Shinkai Electrolyte Drench 3-in-1 Deep Hydrating Gel Cream, £34 for members, £100 for non-members 

Not only does this contain very clever ingredients but the texture is genius too. It is ‘wobbly’ in consistency, so it can be used as either a serum under your favourite face SPF, as your daily moisturiser or, because of its ability to hold shape a bit better than most other gel moisturisers, you can also apply a thicker layer and use it as an overnight treatment mask. Ingredient-wise, there is a mix of electrolytes and minerals which have the ability to sink into the deeper layers of the skin and stay there. It also has a sultry scent not dissimilar to a handsome man’s aftershave which we enjoyed immensely.

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With a key focus on strengthening the skin barrier to prevent moisture leaving that it does with a combination of an omega ceramics complex, this fragrance-free moisturiser also contains hydrating glycerin and niacinamide to control oil levels. It’s a no-frills and no-fuss light gel moisturiser that does exactly as it says on the tin…or should that be tube?

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The one for dehydrated skin: Elf Holy Hydration Hydro Gel Moisturiser, £12

A little pot with a great product inside. This has a slightly richer, but still silky smooth consistency but will definitely work better on drier skin types that need a little bit more hydration. As well as hyaluronic acid it contains plant-based squalane as well as niacinamide and peptides. Plus it is excellent value for money.

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Before we even get into the ingredients in this very cool-looking pot - there’s something almost glacial about it - we have to talk about the finish it gives the skin. It creates the most gorgeous luminous finish that lasts well beyond when the product has sunk in. This gel cream has a real focus on boosting the biome levels of the skin, which it does with fermented prebiotics. The happier the biome, the stronger the skin’s moisture barrier becomes.

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The one for spot-prone skin: Oskia Violet Water Hydra Gel, £52

Containing ingredients to help with every issue that spot-prone skin has to deal with, this is one hard-working gel cream moisturiser. Colloidal silver, prebiotics, vitamin C and niacinamide all work on clearing the complexion. Then there is a micro-plankton complex, which levels out sebum, and the ingredient found in colloidal oats that calms the skin. It has a violet tinge to it (which teenagers will love - this is very much a product that can be used by parents and teens alike) which is inspired by the healing waters of ancient Sicily and a gorgeous spa-like scent.

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The cooling one: Klorane Cornflower Water Cream, £17

By their consistency all gel moisturisers feel more refreshing and cooling on the skin compared with their richer moisturising counterparts. However, this clear gel is exceptionally cooling making it a great option to pack for holidays in the sun or if you always run a bit warm and need some cooling down. It contains masses of hydrating hyaluronic acid as well as cornflower water which is excellent for soothing skin.

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The one for a matte finish: Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Gel Moisturiser, £33 

This intriguing-looking misty blue gel moisturiser is contained in a very cool blue tub (the sort you would want to Instagram). The reason for its slight fogginess? It contains tiny beads of blue hyaluronic acid fermented with deep sea algae that burst on the skin to drench it in even more hydration. It doesn’t leave the skin looking completely matte, no gel moisturiser will do that, but it does create a gorgeous and radiant velvety finish.

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The SPF one: Byoma Moisturising Gel-Cream SPF30, £14.99

We all know how important it is to wear SPF every day and this light gel-cream with broad spectrum SPF30 has just made that even easier. While this is a brand mainly targeting a younger Gen Z audience, thanks to its Instagrammable packaging and accessible price points, this product in particular is one that transcends all ages as it contains everything that any skin needs. There is a ceramide complex to boost the skin barrier and hyaluronic acid and beta gluten to boost hydration. Plus that all-important sun protection.

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The vitamin C one: Ole Henriksen C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème, £40 

Containing three sources of vitamin C that are light and air-stable, so it won't oxidise and deteriorate in potency, this light orange cream (it’s actually slightly mousse-like in texture) combines the best vitamin C serum brightening capabilities with the hydration hit of a moisturiser. Meaning you can cut back a few steps in your skincare regime saving you precious time and money.

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If you are guilty of overzealous volume of product application then meet this nifty cream whose packaging does all the handwork for you thanks to its perfect dose pump lid. Not only that, the cream that comes out is excellent too. Containing blue algae extract to pep up skin and make it look more revived as well as a very clever hydration delivery mechanism that gets moisture to the skin where it needs it most and keeps delivering it to maintain hydration and banish dryness.

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The one for sensitised skin: The Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly, £24.99

For moments when you’ve either overdone it with the active ingredients or your simply looking for a fairly simple, but effective, skin hydrator, then this is a great option. It is a clear jelly that melts onto the skin transforming into a hydrating - hyaluronic filled - serum.

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